By Gopi Rao
Modern psychology is largely concerned with fixing or curing the ego. There is what is considered a healthy ego and then there are various expressions of unhealthy ego development. These unhealthy ego types are given labels and terms with the goal being to bring these unhealthy expressions of personality into a more healthy mental alignment.
Mental illness is a serious subject and should not be taken lightly. If true mental illness is an issue, the assistance of a doctor is essential and there are various medications and treatments that may prove beneficial. However, most people may promote states of improved mental health and clarity on their own with meditation.
We understand that in order to stave off illness and disease that we must eat healthy and exercise often in order to keep the body in top condition. Why should the mind be any different? There are practical steps that can be taken to improve the mental health and thought life of the average individual and safeguard them against falling into mentally unhealthy mind patterns.
Western culture is not completely ignorant of such things. For example, James Allen wrote extensively on contemplative thought and meditation during the early 19th century; his best known book titled ‘As a Man Thinketh’ is still widely read and regarded as a practical manual for cultivating a well trained mind today. He saw the inherent unhappiness and lack of focus that commonly plagues everyone who lets their mind run rampant and he dedicated his life to awakening people from this deluded state.
In order to improve mental health through meditation one must practice it daily. The meditation type and duration do not matter nearly as much as the frequency. It would be better to meditate for 5-10 minutes everyday than 1-2 hours on the weekends.
How exactly does meditation promote improved mental health? It’s simple yet amazingly profound. Daily meditation practice significantly alters the physical structure of the brain, much like a muscle is modified through daily exercise. The grey matter is thickened in key areas of a meditator’s brain which actually changes the way thoughts and feelings are fired.
The prefrontal lobes are significantly thicker in the brains of those who meditate and the prefrontal cortex is strongly associated with making good, rational decisions. Other areas of the brain which control pain, hunger, integration of thought and focus also experienced thickening, resulting in higher and better functioning.
Even areas of the brain which control automatic functions such as the regulation of the heartbeat also saw increases. It’s no wonder that those who meditate feel better and safer within their own skin. By taking their attention and drawing it inward they mold and shape the structure of the brain itself, which in turn supports a naturally calm and steady mind.
Being the owner of a well trained mind, a mind which is a tool that may be used at will but then put away when no longer needed, is key to finding true mental stability and mental health. Meditation of any persuasion leads to a sound mind that serves its owner well.
Meditation is the key to mental health. In the future as more individuals in the West see the benefit of making meditation a part of their daily routine the rate of mental illness should fall dramatically. Until that day happens, small groups of forward thinking individuals will lead the way by example through safeguarding their minds against illness with daily meditation. Be a part of that movement today and see your quality of life improve dramatically.
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